U.S. blasts Putin nuclear order, doesn't rule out war crimes trial

U.S. blasts Putin’s nuclear order as ‘unacceptable’ and says war crimes tribunal isn’t off the table after Ukraine accuses Russia of genocide and demands its president be tried at The Hague

  • US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said ‘everything is on the table as we move forward’ when asked about Putin standing trial
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Putin of ‘genocide’ and also called for him to face the International Court of Justice on Sunday
  • Putin indicated the same day that his troops should be ready for nuclear war 
  • House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said Putin likely saw himself ‘painted into a corner’ when he made the order or otherwise could be ‘unstable’ 

The United States on Sunday condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to put his nuclear forces on high alert as dangerous and ‘unacceptable.’

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield also said nothing was ‘off the table’ when asked about the possibility of Putin being tried in international court as a war criminal. 

In issuing his order to prepare Russia’s nuclear weapons for increased readiness for launch, Putin cited ‘aggressive statements’ from NATO allies and widespread sanctions imposed by Western nations.

Thomas-Greenfield told CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ program that Putin’s actions have escalated the conflict.

She said the United States was ‘continuing to look at new and even harsher measures against the Russians.’

In a separate interview on CNN’s State of the Union, the diplomat responded to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling for Putin to stand trial in the International Court of Justice.

‘We’re holding the Russians accountable at every level,’ Thomas-Greenfield said. 

‘They are the aggressors. And they have to be held accountable, whether it’s in the United Nations or elsewhere. And all of that continues to be discussed and is on the table.

A Russian military vehicle is seen ablaze in Kharkiv on Sunday morning after troops entered the eastern Ukrainian city 

Ukrainian servicemen have a rest on a position near Kyiv, Ukraine, February 27, 2022

A big fire at a petroleum storage depot after a Russian missile attack, in Vasylkiv, near Kyiv

Thomas-Greenfield said ‘everything is on the table’ when asked about possibly trying Vladimir Putin in the international criminal court

‘As you know, we will be having a discussion in Geneva at the U.N. Human Rights Council, bringing Russia before the Human Rights Council as well. And there’s another resolution that we’re bringing before the General Assembly in a special emergency meeting that we’re requesting tonight.’

Host Dana Bash pressed her, ‘You didn’t mention a war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Is that also on the table?’

‘I think everything is on the table as we move forward. But as we’re dealing with the situation today, we’re continuing to address all of those issues,’ Thomas-Greenfield said. 

Zelensky accused the Russian military of genocide in recorded remarks and demanded Putin be tried at the Hague in an early Sunday morning statement on Twitter.

‘Ukraine has submitted its application against Russia to the ICJ. Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression. We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week,’ he said. 

He said in a video message the same day that Putin’s ‘criminal actions against Ukraine bear signs of genocide.’

At the Pentagon, a senior U.S. defense official also described Putin’s nuclear order as an escalation and said it was ‘putting in play forces that, if there’s a miscalculation, could make things much, much more dangerous.’

The United States is trying to determine what Putin’s order means ‘in tangible terms,’ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Also on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ program, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Putin’s nuclear order ‘aggressive’ and ‘irresponsible.’

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Putin was responding to an imaginary threat.

‘We’ve seen him do this time and time again. At no point has Russia been under threat from NATO, has Russia been under threat from Ukraine,’ Psaki said on ABC’s ‘This Week’ program.

The United States has not taken sanctions targeting Russia’s energy sector off the table, Psaki said.

‘But we also want to do that and make sure we’re minimizing the impact on the global marketplace and do it in a united way,’ she added.

The Biden administration has worried that its sanctions could raise already-high gas and energy prices in the United States and has taken steps to mitigate that. When it issued sanctions targeting major Russian banks on Thursday, it allowed an exception for energy-related transactions.

In the administration’s most urgent public appeal yet to China, Psaki urged the Communist state to issue a formal condemnation of Russia’s invasion.

‘This is not a time to stand on the sidelines,’ Psaki said on MSNBC. ‘This is a time to be vocal and condemn the actions of President Putin and Russia invading a sovereign country.’

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday that China respects countries’ sovereignty, including Ukraine’s, but that Russia’s concerns about NATO’s eastward expansion should be properly addressed.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress continued to take an increasingly sharp tone toward Putin, showing that for now both parties are largely backing the Biden administration’s efforts.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, told Fox News after the Russian president’s nuclear order that ‘no country in the world should stand with Putin.’

The California lawmaker blasted Putin as ‘reckless, evil and dangerous’ and claimed there were two reasons he would put his troops on such a severe alert. 

‘One, because this war is not going well, and he’s being painted into a corner, and he wants to be a stronger hand to try to negotiate a way out,’ McCarthy said.

‘The second one is he’s unstable, that he will literally try to have a nuclear weapon option going forward.’

On CNN, Senator Mitt Romney, a former Republican presidential nominee, called Putin ‘a small, evil feral-eyed man who is trying to shape the world in the image where once again Russia would be an empire – and that’s not going to happen.’ 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday announced $54 million in new humanitarian aid for Ukrainians affected by the invasion, which was in addition to the $350 million sent by the United States last week.

‘This includes the provision of food, safe drinking water, shelter, emergency health care, winterization, and protection,’ Blinken said in a statement.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s majority leader, said the White House’s request for an additional $6.4 billion in aid would be taken up by the Senate in the coming days.

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